Temptation, Lust & Urges




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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

If you are like many people who struggle (or have struggled) with porn and masturbation, chances are growing up your parents never really talked about sex, lust, or any of that stuff.

They never helped distinguish the “natural and healthy” from the “harmful and unhealthy.”

So as a result terms like urge, temptation, and lust got all jumbled up together and thrown into the same bucket.

I see people mixing up these words all the time painting them with the same wide brush… but they are very different things.

And this is important to recognize because if you are in the process of working out your freedom, using these terms interchangeably can make things very confusing and even discouraging.

So then, what’s the difference?


This is one we need to get into our heads. Temptation is very human and it’s not wrong. We are all tempted. In fact, the Bible says even Jesus was tempted and I hate to break it to you…

Temptation is never going away.

But what is temptation?

Here’s my simple definition for our purposes… Temptation is the thought without the follow-up action.

So for example, if a guy is online and comes across an article link with a woman in a bikini and thinks to himself, “Hmm, she looks nice. I bet if I click that link I’ll like what I see,” but then dismisses the thought and goes about his day there’s nothing to feel bad or guilty about.

Nothing to feel shameful about.

No harm, no foul as they say.

And while some may struggle with the fact that they were tempted and see that as a “loss,” the truth is what they did was an actual “win.”

Understand when we confuse temptation with things like lust or acting out as being basically the same thing, we create a lot of unwanted guilt and anxiety around something that’s quite honestly very normal and is always going to be there in some form or another.

If it’s not clicking the picture, maybe it’s something like lying on your tax return. Regardless, temptation moments will always come up. Moments when we think, “well, that would be nice” or “that’s convenient,” or “that would be a lot easier.”

But as long as we don’t put those thoughts into actions, it’s fine.


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Lust is different from temptation. In some ways you might see it as the next step or the “action” after the thought.

Lust is letting your mind wander and mentally acting on the temptation.

So go back to my earlier example…

If when that guy sees that picture rather than clicking off, lingers, keeps staring at it, and starts playing out scenes in his mind where he’s mentally undressing her. Maybe he clicks the link and then continues to fantasize about her… then that’s lust.

See, he’s not just thinking “hmm, that’s nice” then moving on.

No, he’s dwelling on it.
He’s craving it.

He’s mentally possessing and objectifying that woman.

Maybe he’s not chasing down porn afterwards, but lust is still an issue.

And unfortunately, lust is something we all will probably have to contend with on some level at times, regardless of how sexually or spiritually healthy we are.

In other words, like temptation, lust is not going away.

It’ll always be a choice when you’re tempted.

But I got news for you, it’s still a choice and something we can avoid or not entertain.


Now an urge goes beyond lust. See, lust is a mental thing and something you can halt in its tracks. And similarly, while you can be tempted without lusting, you can lust without having the urge to act out.

For people struggling with porn, they usually fly right through the lust stage and go right to the urge stage. And what happens is their lust quickly develops into an urge to act out by masturbating or looking at porn.

But in this chain reaction, lust has turned into something completely different from where you started.

See you are no longer dealing with fantasizing about a certain image or person, you are now dealing with a desire to engage in a certain behavior.

In the recovery world, we call that being “triggered.”

And when you find freedom in your life, I assure you, the urge to act out can go away.

See being triggered is not a natural thing. It is our mental response or defense to certain stimuli that our brain has developed due to experiences in our life.

And when we find real healing from these things, we disarm these triggers.

Understand, it is really important to get these distinctions so you can avoid needless shame and frustration.

Yes, we all will be tempted. That’s not going away and it’s not wrong, and we don’t have to act on those temptations.

And yes, we will all have moments when we have to contend with lust. And that is wrong, but we are fully able to deny lust or at least disarm it when it comes up.

But being triggered and acting out on those urges is something that happens because of your current wounded state and when you find healing in your life, that can, and will go away.

It has for me.

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